Orange County Required to Release Inmates Due to COVID-19

1,800 Inmates Ordered to Be Released by Local Judge


According to Fox News, 1,800 Orange County inmates were ordered to be released by a Superior Court judge amid concerns over rising coronavirus cases. Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes initially refused the release, citing that some had been locked up for violent crimes including “murder and child molestation,” as reported by Fox.

In speaking to Fox & Friends, Sheriff Barnes said that he had “no intention” of releasing the individuals stating that they posed a “serious threat.” The order came after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit. After the order was issued, Barnes announced that he planned to appeal the decision. According to reporting by the news source, the sheriff had already released 1,400 low-level offenders since the beginning of the pandemic. 

ABC 7 News later reported that an appeals court affirmed the decision by the lower court judge, ruling against the sheriff’s efforts to stop the release of inmates equating to half of the jail population. As noted in the article, there were over 1,200 Orange County inmates who had been infected by the virus, prompting the ACLU lawsuit to slow the spread within the jail system.

The early release of inmates made national headlines when it allegedly resulted in the death of an inmate’s mother who contracted the virus from her infected son. According to CBS Los Angeles, one of the released Orange County inmates unknowingly spread the novel coronavirus to his family, including his 65-year-old mother. She passed away at a local hospital shortly after contracting the virus. The inmate had been tested prior to his release but did not get results until after the fact. It is unclear whether the inmate was released as part of the court order or previous efforts to reduce the jail population in the wake of COVID-19.